Pennsylvania Township First in the Nation to Legalize Civil Disobedience to Defend Itself Against Harmful Corporate Activities

Paul Cienfuegos’ May 31st, 2016 Commentary on KBOO Evening News


(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at,, or subscribe via ITunes. Listen to this one HERE.)


Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.


Today I’m going to share some very exciting news with you about a small township in Pennsylvania that made history earlier this month. Here’s an excerpt from a news article about it in a wonderful online journal of investigative reporting called Public Herald


... On May 3rd, Grant Township in Indiana County, Pennsylvania made a bit of history. The municipality passed a local law legalizing civil disobedience. According to the new law, anyone who commits a nonviolent act of civil disobedience in order to protect the community’s rights under its Home Rule Charter has the legal right to do so – but not only that – the law also prohibits “any private or public actor from bringing criminal charges or filing any civil or other criminal action against those participating in nonviolent direct action.”


In November 2015, Grant became the first municipal community to establish a local Bill of Rights, which also happened to ban fracking wastewater injection. Before that, Grant Township made history in 2014 when it became the first place where an ecosystem filed to defend itself in a lawsuit.


Grant Township’s story is a rebellious one and plays a feature part in Public Herald’s upcoming documentary ‘Invisible Hand’ [which will be released in October]. Grant’s local, law-making strategy challenges the corporate status quo head-on, attempting to rewrite state and national law in order to let communities have first and final say in what goes down there. As it stands, communities across the globe are grappling with how to protect themselves against industrial, corporate harm that is permitted by state and federal agencies, which essentially forces a certain amount of risk onto citizens of the community without its consent.


In the United States, we have freedom of speech and assembly, but anyone who civilly disobeys the government is subject to criminal and civil charges, like disorderly conduct or rioting that can include fines and jail time. Civil disobedience is a common tactic used throughout history when people decide that ‘enough is enough’. As Grant Township Supervisor Stacy Long explained, “We’re tired of being told by corporations and our so-called environmental regulatory agencies that we can’t stop this injection well. This isn’t a game. We’re being threatened by a corporation with a history of permit violations, and that corporation wants to dump toxic frack wastewater into our Township.”


A press release about Grant’s new law reveals backing from Tim DeChristopher, who spent nearly two years in prison for civil disobedience he carried out to block the auction of public lands in the red rock country … of southern Utah to oil and gas companies for drilling/ fracking/ mining. DeChristopher posed as a bidder in the auction and won bids for 22,000 acres of public land that were later determined were never supposed to be auctioned in the first place. DeChristopher … is co-founder of the Climate Disobedience Center. Regarding Grant Township, he stated: “I’m encouraged to see an entire community and its elected officials asserting their rights to defend their community from the assaults of the fossil fuel industry, and I know there are plenty of folks in the climate movement ready to stand with Grant Township.”


… Grant Township Supervisor and Chairman Jon Perry summed up the township’s ongoing, several-year battle by saying, “Sides need to be picked. Should a polluting corporation have the right to inject toxic waste, or should a community have the right to protect itself? I was elected to serve this community, and to protect the rights in our Charter voted in by the people I represent. If we have to physically and nonviolently stop the trucks from coming in because the courts fail us, we will do so. And we invite others to stand with us.”


I have been reading excerpts from an article published on May 4th at, an amazing online investigative journal. Their new documentary, titled ‘Invisible Hand’, about communities exercising their constitutional rights against harmful corporations, will be released in October. If you are interested in supporting the brave people of Grant Township, Pennsylvania, who just weeks ago legalized nonviolent civil disobedience to defend their community from harmful corporate activities, please contact Stacy Long at <> or 724-840-7214.


You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.


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